Sweetly Scented Tulips
A fragrant few are pleasing to see and to smell
That’s how I found ‘Apricot Beauty’, my ‘first’ fragrant tulip. That discovery marked the beginning of an ongoing, delightful search that has led me to a score or so of sweetly scented tulips.
A few fragrant favorites
I’ve planted new ‘Apricot Beauty’ bulbs every fall since I first discovered them. This cultivar excels in the garden and makes a superb cut flower. One vase of ‘Apricot Beauty’ will perfume a whole room. For winter blooms, I also pot a few bulbs up every year for indoor forcing.
Some of the early, doubleflowered tulips are not only fragrant, but also boast flowers as fulsome as any peony. Of these, I like the yellow ‘Mr. van der Hoef’; ‘Electra’, a pinkish-red beauty; and ‘Schoonoord’, a lovely pure white.
I’ve also discovered a few fragrant tulips that appear a little later in the season—a few mid-season Darwin Hybrid tulips caught my attention this past year, when I discovered two new varieties to add to my list of fragrant favorites. ‘Silverstream’ is a pale, cream color with a fine, sweet scent and leaves edged with pink. ‘Holland’s Glory’ is another standout—it sports huge, orange-red blossoms on strong, 2-foot-tall stems. Darwin Hybrids are the tulips that are most likely to return for several years to bloom again in your garden.
Place fragrant tulips near a door
A great way to bring fragrant tulips indoors is to force them for winter bloom. Among the most fragrant and easily-forced tulips are ‘Bellona’, a yellow, single early tulip, and, my favorite, ‘Apricot Beauty’. There’s something magical about having a pot of sweetsmelling tulips on the livingroom table as you watch the snow falling outside.
Plant deep in well-drained soil
Whatever type you’re planting, a few simple steps will increase the chance of repeat blooms in the years to come. First of all, the cooler and drier the bulbs are in summer, the better they will do. Planting fairly deeply— with at least 8 inches from the soil level to the top of the bulb—will get the bulbs down to cooler soil. Make sure the soil you plant them in is well-drained—tulip bulbs don’t like wet feet.
You can also keep bulbs cool in the summer by overplanting them with large-leaved perennials. In sunny areas I use peonies (Paeonia spp.) and columbine meadow rue (Thalictrum aquilegiifolium), and in semi-shade, hostas. An extra bonus of using large-leaved companions is that their emerging foliage helps hide the withering greenery of the tulips.